Defensive Adjustments Key Suns' Blowout Win

One could look at the 119 points the Suns scored against the Blazers in Game 2 last night and think that it was Phoenix's high-powered offense that got them back in the series. But that would be wrong, because in last night's game, it was the 90 points that Portland scored that proved to be the difference.

In other words, Phoenix won last night's game with their defense. Specifically, they won it thanks to a couple key adjustments made by coach Alvin Gentry. The most important one was to put small forward Grant Hill on Blazers point guard Andre Miller, who torched the Suns for 31 points and eight assists in Game 1. With Hill's height bothering him, Miller had just 12 points and three assists in Game 2. More importantly, Hill's defense allowed Jason Richardson, who guarded Miller in Game 1, to focus more on his offense, and Richardson responded with 29 points, including 4-5 from three-point range. 

SB Nation's Suns blog Bright Side of the Sun talked to Richardson after the game about being freed from the responsibility of guarding Miller.

Grant [Hill] for his part talked about his respect for Andre and was humble about his own performance but his teammate Jason Richardson, who had the Miller assignment in Game 1, was effusive in his praise, "It's tough. I don't know how Grant guarded him. He did a good job on him tonight and scored 20. I couldn't do it."

Jason went on to explain his frustration with Game 1, "I couldn't sleep until four or five in the morning, just watching the game over and over and seeing everything I did wrong."

Phoenix, however, did much more than just switch defensive assignments. They pressured Miller all the way up the court, denying Miller the ball and forcing someone else to initiate Portland's offense. Jared Dudley told Bright Side of the Sun that it was the first time this season that the Suns pressured full court like this, and it had an effect. Blazers coach Nate McMillan had this to say:

"They took us out of our offense early. They jammed Miller and denied him the ball. We had some trouble getting into our offense and were kind of a little hesitant running our sets. They forced Rudy [Fernandez] to handle the ball and make some plays."    

Phoenix's defense also swarmed LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge somehow only attempted eight shots the whole game, mostly because Phoenix ran double teams at him the whole game. With Miller and Aldridge ineffective, the Blazers don't have many good secondary options, especially if Nicolas Batum's injured shoulder causes him to miss more games in this series. There might not be much they can do to combat Phoenix's new aggressive defense. To paraphrase Rick Pitino, Brandon Roy isn't walking through that door. (Well, probably not). 

Then again, the Blazers could always play harder. SB Nation's Blazers blog Blazers Edge thinks the solution is fairly simple. 

 It won't take a 5,000 word, video-filled post to analyze Game Two: The Suns simply worked the Blazers in every facet of the game.     

Translation: if the Blazers play with more of a sense of urgency at home in Game 3, they can win, no matter who ends up playing.

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